Actress Aunjanue Ellis used the red carpet at the NAACP Image Awards on Friday to take a political stand.
The “Quantico” star wore a white dress emblazoned with the phrase “Take It Down Mississippi,” a reference to ongoing debate over the state flag, the last in the country to incorporate the Confederate battle emblem. Designed by “Quantico” costume designer Sami Rattner, the dress included a red handprint next to the phrase.
Following the massacre of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, last June, Confederate battle flags were removed from statehouse grounds in that state and Alabama. Major retailers, including Walmart, pulled them from their shelves.
Change has been slower in Mississippi, where the widely recognizable Confederate symbol known as the Southern Cross occupies not just a prominent landmark, but the upper left corner of the state flag, wherever it flies.
It’s a topic close to Ellis, who was born and raised in the Magnolia State and filmed “The Help” there. In a June 2015 Time column, she vowed not to act in her home state until the flag comes down. The Ku Klux Klan attacked her grandfather under that flag, she wrote, and it remains a symbol of hate, not heritage.
“The sum total of this state is not that flag,” she wrote.
“In a few years, when the civil rights museum is open in Jackson, I want to take my family there. When they ask about the flag of the KKK that is in photo after photo of violence against black bodies, I want to tell them what it is and what it should be: a relic. But before we walk in, I want them to look up and see a flag hoisted on the pole outside, the new Mississippi flag, a beautiful, proud one representative not just of heritage but of future, one in which we all can imagine for the state we love.”
While the flag continues to fly in front of the State Capitol, some Mississippi counties have removed it from county-owned properties. On February 1, the start of Black History Month, a local representative from the NAACP urged the board of supervisors in Jackson County to follow their lead.
“Do the right thing,” Jackson County NAACP Director Curley Clark said, according to The Mississippi Press. “Do what needs to be done in order to portray the image that you most often speak of which is, ‘One Mississippi.’ You cannot have this divisive symbol that divides us.
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“You all have the opportunity to be on the right side of history. Join the other counties such as Sunflower, Oktibbeha, Washington, and cities such as Hattiesburg, Clarksdale, Columbus, Oxford that have taken the action to remove the state flag.”
NAACP representatives in Harrison County made the same request on Monday. In both counties, the request was met with opposition from those claiming most Mississippians support the flag. The state voted in a 2001 referendum to keep the flag.
In both counties, the boards did not take immediate action.
CNN’s Carma Hassan contributed to this report.
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